Brave Enough


I’ve been a quote collector since May 23, 1985 (I was 10).  Interestingly, May 23 is Matt’s birthday.  A coincidence that I began my very first quote book (the one on top) on that day, years and years before I knew my future husband?  Perhaps, perhaps not.


I opened Cheryl Strayed’s new book, Brave Enough, and was in tears by page four.  Infinite thanks to the peerless Liz Egan for sending me an advance copy (have you read Liz’s gorgeous first novel, A Window Opens?  YOU MUST). In the introduction to Brave Enough, Strayed mentions that her own passionate quote habit began with a line from Madeleine L’Engle’s A Ring of Endless Light (a quote that I assure you lives in that top book): “Maybe you have to know darkness before you can appreciate the light.”  She then goes on to refer to a long first-time labor and Ram Dass’s seminal exhortation to be here now, a phrase I’ve often described as the tattoo I would get if I ever got a tattoo.

By the time the brief introduction was over, I knew I was in the company of my people.  I mean, I guess I knew that already, and part of Cheryl Strayed’s immense power is her ability to resonate like that with so, so many readers.  But still.  I loved this book.  She says that “quotes, at their core, almost always shout Yes!” and asserts that Brave Enough “aims to be a book of yes.”

And oh, is it.  Spoiler alert if you’re on my holiday gift-giving list: this book is getting ordered in bulk and going under a lot of trees.  It’s inspiring and reassuring and comforting and lovely.  I laughed and I cried reading the short, powerful quotes on Brave Enough’s pages.  I wish it was twice as long, but of course the fact that Strayed has culled her extensive repertoire of quotable writing to these few gems is part of what makes it glitter so fiercely.

It is hard to pick favorites, but here are some of the short passages that spoke most directly to me.  I hope you’ll buy and read Brave Enough, a book which reminds us of the power of words.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.


When you recognize that you will thrive not in spite of your losses and sorrow, but because of them, that you would not have chosen the things that happened in your life, but you are grateful for them, that you will hold the empty bowls eternally in your hands, but you also have the capacity to fill them?  The word for that is healing.

Acceptance has everything to do with simplicity, with witting in the ordinary place, with bearing witness to the plain facts of our lives, with not just starting at the essential, but ending up there.  Acceptance speaks in the gentlest voice.  It commands only that we acknowledge what’s true.

Trust that all you’ve learned was worth learning, no matter what answer you have or do not have about what practical use it is in your life.  Let whatever mysterious starlight that guided you this far guide you onward into the crazy beauty that awaits.





14 thoughts on “Brave Enough”

  1. Oh! This is so up my alley. I’ve been collecting quotes since high the summer before 9th grade when I did a summer program at Wellesley College and saw some other girls keeping track of quotes they liked.

  2. Love. Also, this quote: “Maybe you have to know darkness before you can appreciate the light.” If that’s in her intro, it’s a must-read. 😉 Thanks for sharing. I’m a huge fan of quotes (and first lines).

  3. I’m also a member of the quote collecting club. Thank you for sharing those words from Cheryl’s new book,they took my breath away. Cannot wait to read it.

  4. I love Cheryl Strayed. Love her. I love her book, story, podcast, etc (I’m still working on Wild, but I got out my highlighter on the first pafe)… Her voice is like how an ideal mother would sound, I think. And the passages you shared are amazing… great writing… exquisitely said.

    I do, however, really struggle with the notion that bad things had to happen so that we can do good things in our lives. Or that things are only good NOW because of the bad things. So many people who I love and adore end up writing poetry like that… I will be reading a poem that I love and I am cheering along and then they say something like that, and it just doesn’t sit well. “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Screw. You!” is kind of what it sounds like in my head (i.e. Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye and The Guest House by Rumi)

    Perhaps reading Cheryl Strayed’s new book will help with those feelings of annoyance!

  5. as you know, i love your book recommendations. when you praise it, i get it. this one will be no different! (kindred spirit alert: i considered a tattoo for my 40th bday. the word i’d have gotten? NOW.) xoxoxo

  6. I adore this post, Lindsey. Like you, I’ve collected quotes all my life.

    My father penned quotes of US presidents and others before his journey from India to America. He continued this practice of jotting down quotes throughout his life. I find it cathartic, sinking into a quote by writing it in my journal.

    Looking forward to Brave Enough and loved A Window Opens (just finished it last week).

  7. This post is so many kinds of awesome, Lindsey. And I love that it connected with so many other people as well!

    I, too, have collected quotes forever. Some of my recent favorites are posted around my computer screen, which makes it look totally unlike all the images of clean offices I pin on Pinterest.

    I love the four quotes you list (including the Madeline L’Engle–beautiful!), and I’ll definitely be on the look-out for the Cheryl Strayed book. And A Window Opens is currently sitting next to my bed waiting to be cracked.


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